‘Remain’ might be trailing in the polls, but the campaign can at least be grateful they haven’t been dealt another hammer blow by the European Court of Justice today. The European Commission had tried to claim that the UK Government was wrong to check whether those getting child benefits were allowed to live in the country before paying out. But thankfully for ‘Remain’, the ECJ ruled that it was legal to hold back money for unemployed EU migrants who were not allowed to be here. The good news for ‘Remain’ is that the decision didn’t go the other way. Given how momentum has increasingly shifted towards ‘Leave’, particularly after yesterday ICM phone poll put the chances of Brexit five points ahead of ‘Remain’, such a decision would have been disastrous. It would have been made worse by the fact that tighter restrictions on benefits for migrants was part of the PM’s renegotiation. But nonetheless, the ruling is still being used as ammunition by Vote Leave, who say that it’s ‘absurd that the UK has to run every nut and bolt of domestic policy’ past the courts in Europe. Iain Duncan Smith is also making the same argument, saying that:
‘Although David Cameron didn’t want to admit it, this case and others like it are proof positive that the unelected European Court of Justice is now supreme above our elected Parliament.’
Whilst such an argument is manna for many of those swaying towards Brexit, the ruling does indicate that the European Court of Justice is sympathetic to the UK’s interpretation of free movement rules. But given that the ‘Remain’ campaign is hardly shouting this ruling from the rooftops, the main positive for the Government to take from this is that the decision didn’t go the other way.